TDN Q&A With Alex Elliott

Alex Elliott | Elliott Bloodstock

With the yearling sales now in full swing, TDN quizzes industry figures on past purchases, life during lockdown and their perspective on the sales over the next few weeks. Today, Alex Elliott answers our questions.

TDN: What was your best yearling purchase over the last few years? And your favourite?

AE: Group 2 winner New Mandate (Ire) (New Bay {GB}) is a horse that has quickly become both one of my favourite and best purchases. He was bought at last year's Arqana August Yearling Sale for €35,000 and was the first horse I bought for 'Lucra', a new trading syndicate founded by myself and trainer Ralph Beckett. The premise is to buy five yearlings with middle-distance pedigrees, with a view to trading them before the end of their 3-year-old careers, either privately or at public auction. Ralph and I have enjoyed much success with such purchases and we thought it was about time we had some skin in the game. We imagined this year was going to be a slow burner for investors considering the portfolio of pedigrees that we had put together, but New Mandate has managed to make sure 'Lucra I' will end in profit, as he was sold after his maiden win at Sandown and immediately rewarded his new owner with a win in the Listed Flying Scotsman at Doncaster. He is now rated 111 after winning the G2 Royal Lodge S. at Newmarket on Saturday.

Jamie McCalmont was kind enough to give me my first job in bloodstock when I returned home from the U.S. in 2012 and he bought New Mandate for his new owner, Marc Chan. I have plenty to thank both Jamie and Ralph for and it is fantastic that we can all enjoy New Mandate's progress together.

TDN: Are there any positive you have taken from how the sales have been conducted this year?

AE: I think sales companies, vendors, buyers and staff have moved mountains to make this sales season happen and everyone should be very proud of what they have achieved. Arqana put on flights to and from their premier yearling sale and they should be highly commended on the service that they provided. The knock-on effect of sales not happening does not bear thinking about.

Looking ahead I hope that I may be able to pick up more business as people may not be able to travel. I have had calls from Australia and America from people who will not be travelling to European sales this year, so there could be some opportunity to strengthen both old and new alliances.

I and some fellow agents are more than a little concerned as to how online bidding is going to affect us. I don't think it is necessary for yearling sales to have online bidding, as this is where my opinion is most valid, but it is here to stay and I'll just have to make sure I have matters in place to make sure the middle man is not made redundant.

TDN: How has your business adapted?

AE: I am lucky in that I have very few overheads as I don't employ anybody full time and I have my office at home, so costs have been kept low. As long as I have internet, a mobile phone and a car my business can run relatively smoothly.

This is the first time in eight years that I have missed the Keeneland September Sale. It was very strange watching Irish Champions Weekend from home, rather than the Northern Dancer bar, and is not something I want to experience again.

TDN: In general what are your thoughts on the 2020 yearling catalogues? And what new stallions' progeny are you most looking forward to?

AE: I rather enjoyed the Arqana Sale being put back a month as it gave those yearlings another month to develop. The August Sale is very early in a yearling's life and that extra month made a big difference to them. It is a difference I would like to see maintained.

So far the first-season sires to have impressed me are Almanzor (Fr), El Kabeir and Postponed (Ire).

TDN: Did you develop any new interests or hobbies during lockdown?

AE: Enjoying endless time with our newborn baby girl Esme, cooking and road cycling were three activities that really blossomed during lockdown; unfortunately they have all taken a backseat since the rat race returned. That said, not going to Keeneland has given me some downtime between sales and I definitely need to get back on the bike after the weiner schnitzel in Baden-Baden and the baguettes in Deauville.

TDN: What's one mistake (if any) you made in your career, and what did you learn from it?

AE: 'You never get a second chance to make a good first impression' is one of the truest sayings going. I started off as an agent very young, too young and definitely thought I could run before I could walk. With that in mind I feel as though I definitely rubbed a few people the wrong way and that is something that I very much regret.

Life as an agent operating on your own can be the most satisfying job in the world but the flip side of that is that it can be a very lonely place when things are going bad. I would advise anyone entering into the profession to gain as much experience, under a respected agent/agency, before branching out and to work closely with as many other people and teams as possible.

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